It’s no secret that I was a bad kid. I gave a lot of people, including my parents, a run for their money. If it wasn’t bringing a knife to Caravans, it was taking a part an entire pew in the middle of service. No, these are not preacher embellishments, these are just a few stories from my past. So, needles to say, when I received my call the summer before my senior in year in high school, there were a few skeptics. When I went on to pursue that call and am now serving as a Lead Pastor, there are still many people in my home church who say, “He’s a what…?” Little Stevie? The holy terror who could never sit still, stop talking, or was always in trouble?
All this to say, I’m staring to understand why a prophet is not accepted in his hometown. Just look at that history…
Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Micah, and Amos were all Old Testament prophets who were rejected by their own people and martyred for their prophetic ministry.
Unlike me, I don’t think Jesus was a bad kid. Maybe he was. We really don’t have many accounts from his childhood years. Maybe there was a Rabbi shocked to hear that Jesus too was studying to be a Rabbi. Wait, Jesus? Little Yeshua? The one who questioned every scripture in Bet Sefer? Here in Luke 4 we see Jesus is back in his hometown of Nazareth as a visiting Rabbi in the Synagogue, ready to open the scroll of the prophet.
The Messiah Has Come!
It would have been customary to have the visiting Rabbi open the scroll and teach the people in the synagogue. It would have been completely normal, as there was a time in the worship for reading specifically from the prophets, for Jesus to open the scroll of Isaiah, read, and share his insights. I would have even been acceptable for Jesus to read from Isaiah 61.
Isaiah 61:1-2a (NLT) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me,
for the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted
and to proclaim that captives will be released
and prisoners will be freed.
2 He has sent me to tell those who mourn
that the time of the Lord’s favor has come,
So up to this point we’re all good…until Jesus sits down and says, “The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!” Wait. What? Did little Yeshua just say that He’s the fulfillment of this scripture? Isn’t that Joseph’s boy? How can this be possible?
Jesus declares through the reading of the word, and the prophecy of Isaiah, that the wait for long awaited Messiah is over, He is here! The Messiah has come!
You would think there would be a celebration and excitement, but instead, Jesus gets led out of town to the edge of a cliff to be killed. Which, by the way, was customary for someone declaring such blaspheme.
What Does This Mean?
As much as I’m interested in the political, social, and religious dynamics of this passage, I’m more interested in what Jesus proclaimed he would do.
There should have been an incredible celebration when you breakdown the passage and realize exactly what he was declaring to the people that day. Here are the highlight:
- Jesus is anointed by the Holy Spirit
- Anointed… to bring Good News to the poor
- Sent… to proclaim the captives will be released
- The blind… will see
- The oppressed… will be set free
These words are incredible powerful! What Jesus says he will do should not have only rocked their world, it should be rocking ours too! The importance of these words are really two fold:
On the one hand, we understand that Jesus will physically help the poor, release the captives, give sight to the blind, and set the oppressed free. On the other hand, we know Jesus will help those who are spiritually poor, release those who are spiritually slaves to sin, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, and to set free those being oppressed by spiritual darkness!
So this passage isn’t just a passage of what Jesus did for them, this passage is a passage of what Jesus can do for you!
The intention of Jesus, and His fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, doesn’t just have implication for then, they have major implications for now.
What’s interesting, is when you go back and look at the prophecy in Isaiah, the people believed Isaiah was referring to the joy that will come at the end of the Babylonian Exile. However, I’m sure there was a lot of confusion when that’s not what happened. Instead, Isaiah was pointing to Jesus, the Messiah, when He comes the Spirit of the Lord will be upon him… he will be anointed to bring Good News (Gospel) to the poor… He will be sent to proclaim the release of those in captivity… He will give sight to the blind… He will set free the oppressed.
Behold, the Messiah has come! Behold, he is coming again… just read the end of verse two that Jesus left off of his reading that day:
Isaiah 61:2b (NIV) and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,